Northern Knights 2016 season preview
The Knights are hoping players in their 2016 group can follow in the footsteps of the club's 2015 AFL draftees, who all appeared in the recent NAB Challenge.
Coach: Andrew Shakespeare (third year)
Talent Manager: Peter Kennedy
2015 finish: 10th
2015 AFL draftees: Jade Gresham (pick no.18, St Kilda), Brayden Fiorini (no.20, Gold Coast), Brayden Sier (no.32, Collingwood), Tyrone Leonardis (no.51, Sydney), Darcy MacPherson (rookie pick no.21, Gold Coast)
2016 AFL Academy members: Level One – Patrick Naish
Last premiership: 1996
The Knights missed the finals for the second straight year after winning just two of their first 15 games in 2015. They finished the season in form though, defeating the Bendigo Pioneers by 83 points in Round 17 and the finals-bound Gippsland Power by one point in the final home-and-away round.
Northern’s five AFL draftees from that group have since played in at least one NAB Challenge match this year and Talent Manager Peter Kennedy said several 2016 top-age players could follow in their footsteps. One of them is Luke Bunker, an inside midfielder who Kennedy said has a very good kick and will be one of the club’s “leading players”.
Kennedy said other Knights to watch include running defender Mason Blakey (the nephew of 300-game AFL player John Blakey), strong-bodied midfielder Matthew Signorello, tall defender Jamison Shea, raw ex-basketballer Patrick Lipinski and small midfielder Corey McKay. “Corey’s probably the same size as Jade Gresham was last year and he went to school with Jade, so we’re hoping he’ll follow in his footsteps,” Kennedy said.
2015 Vic Metro representative Matthew Perry headlines Northern’s over-age players this year, with Kennedy also hoping to showcase his “high-intensity running” in the VFL during the season. The club’s other 19-year-olds are endurance machine Jake Bradley (the son of former Carlton champion Craig Bradley), Steven Fitzgerald, Bobby Lamanna and late developing ruckman Chas Roberts.
Little will change on the coaching panel surrounding senior coach Andrew Shakespeare, but former Australian lacrosse captain Darren Nicholas has taken up a role at the club doing team-building and leadership work with the players.
The Knights open their season on Saturday March 26 against the Sandringham Dragons at Ikon Park.
* Photo: Corey McKay handballs under pressure for the Northern Knights in 2015
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